My Happy Marriage, Vol. 6

By Akumi Agitogi and Tsukiho Tsukioka. Released in Japan as “Watashi no Shiawase na Kekkon” by Fujimi L Bunko. Released in North America Yen On. Translated by David Musto.

Reading this volume of My Happy Marriage felt so different from all the previous volumes, it was absolutely like a breath of fresh air. Oh, don’t get me wrong, the other volumes are also excellent. But there’s always been this sense of suffocation to the events, a feeling that we’re waiting for the other shoe do drop. Frequently it has dropped, so we’re absolutely correct on that stage. Here, though? It’s only at the start, where Miyo is about to ,make a very dumb decision. Once she’s warded off that, though, everything unfolds exactly the way that it should. She seeks out allies, gets them to help her, researches her powers so she can use them better, makes peace with her mother, and heads off to go rescue her man from the hellish prison that he’s incarcerated in. And this works, because the climax is not “will Usui win or will the good guys prevail”, it’s “will Miyo stop hating herself and let love into her heart?” Spoilers: she does.

Miyo starts off this book by thinking the only way to do things is to just walk up to Usui so that she can get Kiyoka somehow. Fortunately, he’s powerful enough, even in prison, while being tortured, and with gift suppression all around, to create a familiar to stop her and tell her that she should actually go and gather allies to do this properly. The familiar also looks like Kiyoka as an 8-year-old boy, which leads to the cute moments of this book, as she finds him adorable, calls him Kiyo, and even lets him sleep in her bed – something I fear she will regret later when she realizes how familiars work. In any case, she goes to visit the Usuba patriarch and gets the complete story about what happened with Usui and her mother, then she goes to Kiyoka’s parents to ask his father to help her gather gift-users, and she gets Kiyoka’s military crew. Then it’s time to go do a prison break.

As I said, if you’re reading this for the thriller aspect, you may be a bit disappointed. Everything goes almost embarrassingly well, due to a combination of Miyo’s dream powers and Kazushi’s ability to hit people very hard. They literally walk into the prison because, due to everything that’s happened in the last couple books, there aren’t enough soldiers Usui trusts to guard it and also beat off the diversion that’s being fought outside. Even the one bit where things look bad happens exactly as expected – if you’re surprised at what Arata did, I’m so sorry, you must not read very many of these series. But the true climax of the book was Usui trying to talk Miyo into joining him in ruling the world, and Miyo snapping and screaming at him. That was wonderful, I will be so happy if it gets animated. Miyo may also have super powers and come from a terrible family life, but she is using her powers to make herself happy, not impose herself on others. Something Usui doesn’t get.

This isn’t the last book, and the author promises the happy marriage is imminent (though the blurb for the next volume suggests a snag). Fans of this series will love this.

My Happy Marriage, Vol. 5

By Akumi Agitogi and Tsukiho Tsukioka. Released in Japan as “Watashi no Shiawase na Kekkon” by Fujimi L Bunko. Released in North America Yen On. Translated by David Musto.

Well, now I just feel bad. One of my go-to jokes about this series is the hideous irony of the title, after all. And in the Afterword the author says they worry about it as well, and asks readers not to constantly harp on it. So that’s half this review needing to be totally rewritten, then. That said, there are signs in this book that we are working our way there, if painfully slowly. Miyo still hates herself so much it’s almost suffocating, but is starting to realize (or be told point blank) that keeping everything to herself can actually be more painful than a possible rejection. She and Kiyoka have a scene where they share a bed (engineered, of course), and it’s as sweet as you’d expect, even though nothing happens, of course. And at the end of the book, we even get an explicit confession of love! Which, um, is actually tragically awful given… (waves vaguely at the cliffhanger)

We pick up where we left off, as the Emperor has been abducted. The Powers that Be make a decision to keep this quiet, which is not that hard given the Emperor is mostly a figurehead now anyway. That said, they really need to protect the prince from the bad guys now. They also need to protect Miyo, so make the decision to do both at the same time and have her staying at the palace, along with Kiyoka, Hazuki, and Yurie. Oh yes, and Arata, her faithful bodyguard. It should be a lot easier now, but there are still ominous rumblings. Miyo’s dreams about her mother and Usui turn out to be something he can talk back to her in, and he doubles down on destroying the world in order to teach it a lesson. Meanwhile, it turns out that the government and military is positively filled with traitors, and that’s bad news for Kiyoka in particular…

All of the My Happy Marriage books have rolled along on a sense of dread, and this one is no exception. We already know from the fourth book that Arata is working for the enemy, so the only question is whether he’s going to be a double agent or a triple agent. Usui is a wonderfully terrible villain, and the thing that pleased me most about the entire book was hearing that his arc should wrap up in Book 6, because I want to be nowhere near him again. The Education Minister’s secretary ends up being like something straight out of a horror movie, and in fact there is a fake climax to the book that reads like the end of a horror film. That said, this is the first book where The Bad Guys Win, and all seems lost. Thankfully, all seeming lost is what finally galvanizes Miyo to get off her ass and be proactive. I’m not sure I approve of her “I will do this by myself so as not to put anyone else in danger” attitude, but it’s otherwise nice to see, and terrific character development.

Still riveting, still fantastically written, still leaves you depressed. Great stuff.

My Happy Marriage, Vol. 4

By Akumi Agitogi and Tsukiho Tsukioka. Released in Japan as “Watashi no Shiawase na Kekkon” by Fujimi L Bunko. Released in North America Yen On. Translated by David Musto.

There is generally a habit in books, whether they’re “mysteries” or not, of trying to conceal a surprise twist. Keep the audience guessing, don’t let them figure out what the twist is until it’s too late. In practice, this is quite hard to pull off, and tends to lead to rolling of the eyes once the big reveal happens. As such, I always appreciate when a book doesn’t bother to do that and just says “let’s give it away on page 1”. Which is exactly what happens here, as there’s a traitor in the group that’s trying to protect Miyo, and the number of people tat it could possibly be amounts to one person. So we see that person approached by the villain immediately, in a prologue, and know who it is. Which is good, as it can then help with that this author really IS good at, which is giving readers an ulcer as they wait for the bad things to inevitably happen.

We pick up where we left off last time, with Miyo and Kiyoka beset by a man who claims to be her real father, and is also really, really smugly evil. Now Miyo can’t be left on her own , so she starts going to work and coming home with Kiyoka every day. She also gets a bodyguard, Kaoruko, one of the few women in the military in what is a very misogynistic unit. This means that Miyo has to deal with a) all the other members of the unit badmouthing Kaoruko and telling her to stay in the kitchen, and b) the fact that Miyo is associated with a family no one trusts and everyone seems to despise. You get the sense that the title of the series is getting further and further away, especially as they’re still not actually married yet.

So yeah, this book runs on dread. Not the dread of a horror novel, but the dread of a book about an abused daughter who is still viewing herself as the absolute worst being attacked on all sides. She has Kiyoka, who does the best he can, but she really needs more allies. Sadly, the one friend she makes, Kaoruko, turns out to be one of Kiyoka’s former potential fiancees, and clearly still has feelings for him, which sends Miyo into another spiral of self-loathing. Now, she does get one scene late in the book where she stands up and lets the sexist soldiers have it, but it’s sort of like eating a riceball made of needles in order to get to the tasty plum inside. Why read the series at all? The needles are also VERY tasty. This author knows how to write depression, anxiety, and melancholy, and Miyo is an extremely well-drawn woman.

So yes, we’re still not happy, and one subplot hints that we may see more double (triple?) agents. But this is still really good angst. The anime debuts next week, and should be exquisitely painful.